The idea for running London-Brighton was conceived after the London Marathon, scheduled for 26th April, was postponed. I had been fortunate enough to get a place and had started to receive donations to OMS so I wanted to make sure I could mark the occasion. I set out on a couple of longer training runs in mid March to test my body at distances longer than a marathon... then unfortunately lockdown happened at the end of March and the idea was put on the “one day” list.
It was only in August when the Yorkshire Marathon, scheduled for 18th October, which I had also secured a place for, was cancelled [regular OMS podcast listeners will know I had originally targeted running this in 2019!] that I felt I had to take action and make something happen. The start/finish I selected was the Arsenal's Emirates Stadium to Brighton's Amex Stadium. The former, was close to my house and heart, and the latter was the location of the first OMS UK conference in 2013, which had sparked some media coverage in a national newspaper a few days after my diagnosis and led to the beginning of my journey with OMS.
Account of the day
The alarm clock was set for 3am for me to take on half a litre of beetroot juice, as directed by sports nutritionist, Tom Hollis, whose expertise I called upon to help with my nutrition plan leading up to and on the day itself - thank you! Breakfast was a bowl of porridge, two bananas and 2 double espressos. Having laid out my kit the night before, I was on the road soon after 4am heading to my first stop at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
It was there that at the Emirate Stadium one of my friends, Charles Davie, surprised me by coming out to join me for the early miles from North to South London. It really helped me settle into a comfortable rhythm and take on some last minute tips - he ran his own 100km in 2013.
The first stop came at approx 50km in Earlswood where my wife Leah and our children were waiting to help refuel both the body and the mind. Their constant support along the way was immense and without them the day just wouldn't have been possible. I was also encouraged along by someone we got chatting to whilst refuelling and was flattered to find out later he thought I was just starting out and hadn’t just run 50km.
The following 24km to Haywards Heath were probably the toughest... not so much for hitting the proverbial wall, but mainly on account of the challenging running terrain. It was a real rollercoaster of undulation combined with limited curb space, which meant running in the road and dodging cars was unavoidable.
Arriving at Haywards Heath brought more coffee....Leah had brought a flask full of espressos, which combined with nut butter sandwiches and oat energy balls provided a much-needed cocktail of energy.
The next stop came soon after at Ditchling, Google Maps tried to take me through a trail... I wasn't confident of the terrain that would bring so I asked a passerby if the trail would lead to the iconic Ditchling Beacon.
"no that's really far" they said....
"but google is telling me five miles" came my reply ...
"yes that's about right" they said.
... It is indeed far, but I guess you lose a certain sense of reality when running for so long.
At the top of the Beacon the end first came into sight - Brighton's Amex Stadium. A swig of the flask of espresso's and a couple of energy balls later, I was good to continue. It was all downhill from that point - that's not a metaphor, but I did have to jump off the road into the verge which was full of stinging nettles [ouch] after a speeding car decided he would play chicken. Not wanting that to curtail the run, the nettles were the favourable option! A couple of other drivers who had witnessed the incident kindly stopped to check I was ok and offered to give me a lift somewhere. I politely declined explaining it would defeat the point of day!
And so... as the sun began to set, I made it to Brighton's Amex Stadium, with Leah and the children there at the finish to greet me. Glancing at my watch, I could see I had registered 95km, not wanting to miss an opportunity to make it 100km, I decided to make the remaining distance by running to the restaurant that we had booked for the final refuel. For what it's worth, the restaurant, Food for Friends in Brighton a Vegan & OMS friendly venue was great and well worth a visit!
As I reflect back on the day, I recognise the distance can be eye catching and some may feel it would not be achievable for them. However, this was a personal goal - I hope people will see that overcoming MS is possible and people will go and strive to achieve their own goals, whatever they may be.
You can watch the story highlights from the day on Alex's Instagram page - @LifeasATOMS